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The colorful globe of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, passes in front of the planet and its rings in this true color snapshot from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Caption and photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

It was a real treat to see some of the newest photographs of Saturn’s moon Titan.

The photographs, obtained via the Cassini mission, were released this past holiday weekend. What perfect timing for us here at Space Oddities! We’ve been working on a photo gallery of our favorite Cassini images. And don’t forget, we should be getting even more new images of Titan fairly soon. The next Titan flyby is in five days.

In the meantime, here are a few of our favorite shots from the mission, which has been studying Saturn and many of its moons for the past seven years.

Saturn’s beauty

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Oh, Saturn. How beautiful art thou? This image, taken in 2005, shows the breathtaking, gentle beauty Saturn has to offer. While the photograph was obtained using blue, green and red spectral filters, NASA says this is how we would actually see the ringed planet. (In good lighting, of course!)

 

Saturn’s intense storm

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

This powerful storm, which began on Saturn’s northern hemisphere about a year ago, was so amazing that it became one of our first photos of the week. These photographs, taken from late 2010 through mid-2011, show the largest storm ever witnessed on Saturn, according to NASA. Read more about it here.

Planet of the rings

NASA/JPL/University of Colorado

When you think of Saturn, you obviously think of its rings, right? Well, I sure do. And here’s one of my favorite photographs of Saturn’s rings. The ultraviolet image, released in 2004, shows that Saturn’s outer rings contain more ice than its inner rings. This, according to NASA, hints “at the origins of the rings and their evolution.” Years after the image was released, we learned that the moon Enceladus does provides ice to Saturn’s rings. Read more about this image here.

 

Enceladus and its fountains

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This photograph shows the moon Enceladus and its fountain-like spray of water and ice. Read more about it here.

 

Rings and moons

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This photograph is amazing, isn’t it?! “Saturn’s rings cut across an eerie scene that is ruled by Titan’s luminous crescent and globe-encircling haze, broken by the small moon Enceladus, whose icy jets are dimly visible at its south pole,” according to this release. Wow. Just wow.

 

Phoebe

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Here’s a composite image of Phoebe, one of Saturn’s smaller and irregularly shaped moons. “Phoebe shows an unusual variation in brightness over its surface due to the existence on some crater slopes and floors of bright material – thought to contain ice – on what is otherwise one of the darkest known bodies in the solar system,” according to this NASA release. I guess we could have included Phoebe in “The search for water beyond Earth” photo gallery.

 

Titan’s lakes

NASA/JPL/USGS

For the longest time, scientists believed that there were oceans or lakes of methane on Saturn’s moon Titan. It wasn’t until 2006 when radar imaging of Titan provided this evidence. “The lakes, darker than the surrounding terrain, are emphasized here by tinting regions of low backscatter in blue. Radar-brighter regions are shown in tan,” according to this release. However, NASA stated, “the colors are not a representation of what the human eye would see.” Boo.

 

Mimas

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Ah yes, Mimas. This photograph, taken in 2010, shows the massive Herschel Crater, which reminds a lot of people of the Death Star. What do you think? The crater is 81 miles wide. Whoa. Read more here.

 

Rhea

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Here’s the moon Rhea, pictured in front of Saturn and its rings. Read more here.

 

Titan’s surface

NASA/JPL/ESA/University of Arizona

Taken in 2005, this image was obtained by the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe during its successful descent to land on Titan, according to NASA. “This is the colored view, following processing to add reflection spectra data, and gives a better indication of the actual color of the surface.” Read more about Titan’s surface, and this photograph, here.

 

Hyperion

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Hello my spongy-looking friend. This here is Hyperion, another one of Saturn’s moon. “Scientists think that Hyperion’s unusual appearance can be attributed to the fact that it has an unusually low density for such a large object, giving it weak surface gravity and high porosity,” according to this release.

 

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